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Diving and Snorkeling

More than two-dozen dive sites lie along the west coast between Maycocks Bay and Bridgetown and off the south coast as far as the St. Lawrence Gap. Certified divers can explore flat coral reefs and see dramatic sea fans, huge barrel sponges, and more than 50 varieties of fish. Divers regularly explore nine sunken wrecks, and at least 10 more are accessible to experts. Underwater visibility is generally 80 to 90 feet. The calm waters along the west coast are also ideal for snorkeling. The marine reserve, a stretch of protected reef between Sandy Lane and the Colony Club, contains beautiful coral formations accessible from the beach.

On the west coast, Bell Buoy is a large, dome-shape reef where huge brown coral tree forests and schools of fish delight all categories of divers at depths of 20 to 60 feet. At Dottins Reef, off Holetown, you can see schooling fish, barracudas, and turtles at depths of 40 to 60 feet. Maycocks Bay, on the northwest coast, is particularly enticing; large coral reefs are separated by corridors of white sand, and visibility is often 100 feet or more. The 165-foot freighter Pamir lies in 60 feet of water off Six Men's Bay; it's still intact, and you can peer through its portholes at dozens of varieties of tropical fish. Silver Bank is a healthy coral reef with beautiful fish and sea fans; you may get a glimpse of the Atlantis submarine at 60 to 80 feet. Not to be missed, the Stavronikita, is a scuttled Greek freighter at about 135 feet; hundreds of butterfly fish hang out around its mast, and the thin rays of sunlight filtering down through the water make exploring the huge ship a wonderfully eerie experience.

Farther south, Carlisle Bay is a natural harbor and marine park just below Bridgetown. Here you can retrieve empty bottles thrown overboard by generations of sailors and see cannons and cannonballs, anchors, and six shipwrecks (Berwyn, Fox, CTrek, Eilon, the barge Cornwallis, and Bajan Queen) lying in 25 to 60 feet of water, all close enough to visit on the same dive. The Bajan Queen, a cruise vessel that sank in 2002, is the island's newest wreck.

Dive shops provide a two-hour beginner's "resort" course (about $100) followed by a shallow dive, or a weeklong certification course (about $450). Once you're certified, a one-tank dive costs about $70 to $80; a two-tank dive runs $120 to $125. All equipment is supplied, and you can purchase multidive packages. Gear for snorkeling is available (free or for a small rental fee) from most hotels. Snorkelers can usually accompany dive trips for $25 for a one- or two-hour trip. Most dive shops have relationships with hotels and offer dive packages to hotel guests, including round-trip transfers.

Dive Shop, Ltd. Near the Carlisle Bay marine park just south of Bridgetown, the island's oldest dive shop offers daily reef and wreck dives, plus beginner classes, certification courses, and underwater photography instruction. Underwater cameras are available for rent. Free transfers are provided between your hotel and the dive shop. Amey's Alley, Upper Bay St., next to Nautilus Beach Apts., Bridgetown, St. Michael. 246/426–9947. www.thediveshopbarbados.com.

Hightide Watersports. On the west coast, Hightide Watersports offers three dive trips daily—one- and two-tank dives and night reef–wreck–drift dives—for up to eight divers, along with PADI instruction, equipment rental, and free transportation. Coral Reef Club, Hwy. 1, Holetown, St. James. 246/432–0931, 800/970–0016, or 800/513–5763. www.divehightide.com.

Reefers & Wreckers Dive Shop. The most northerly dive shop gives easy access to the north's unspoiled reefs and runs trips to dive sites and wrecks along the west coast and in Carlisle Bay. Queen St., Speightstown, St. Peter. 246/422–5450. www.scubadiving.bb.

Fishing

Fishing is a year-round activity in Barbados, but prime time is January through April, when game fish are in season. Whether you're a serious deep-sea fisher looking for marlin, sailfish, tuna, and other billfish or you prefer angling in calm coastal waters where wahoo, barracuda, and other small fish reside, you can choose from a variety of half- or full-day charters departing from the Careenage in Bridgetown. Expect to pay $175 per person for a shared half-day charter; for a private charter (up to six people), expect to pay $500 to $700 per boat for a four- to six-hour half-day charter or $900 to $1,000 for an eight-hour full-day charter. Spectators who don't fish are welcome for $50 per person.

Billfisher Deepsea Fishing. Billfisher III, a 40-foot Viking Sport Fisherman, accommodates up to six passengers with three fishing chairs and five rods. Captain Winston ("The Colonel") White has been fishing these waters since 1975. His full-day charters include a full lunch; all trips include drinks and transportation to and from the boat. Bridge House Wharf, the Careenage, Bridgetown, St. Michael. 246/431–0741.

Cannon Charters. Cannon II, a 42-foot Hatteras Sport Fisherman, has three chairs and five rods and accommodates six passengers; drinks and snacks are complimentary, and lunch is served on full-day charters. The Careenage, Bridgetown, St. Michael. 246/424–6107. www.fishingbarbados.com.

High Seas Charters. Ocean Hunter, a 42-foot custom-built sportfishing boat, has an extended cockpit that easily accommodates six people. Choose a four-, six-, or eight-hour charter. All tackle and bait are supplied, as well as drinks and snacks. Charter rates include hotel transfers. The Careenage, St. Michael. 246/233–2598. www.sportfishingbarbados.com.

Golf

Barbadians love golf, and golfers love Barbados. Courses open to visitors are listed below.

Barbados Golf Club. The first public golf course on Barbados, an 18-hole championship course, was redesigned in 2000 by golf course architect Ron Kirby. The course has hosted numerous competitions, including the European Senior tour in 2003. Several hotels offer preferential tee-time reservations and reduced rates. Cart, trolley, club, and shoe rentals are all available. Hwy. 7, Durants, Christ Church, BB17090. 246/428–8463. www.barbadosgolfclub.com. $105 for 18 holes; $65 for 9 holes; 3-, 5-, and 7-day passes $255, $400, $525, respectively. 18 holes, 6805 yards, par 72.

Country Club at Sandy Lane. At this prestigious club, golfers can play the Old Nine or either of two 18-hole championship courses: the Tom Fazio–designed Country Club Course and the spectacular Green Monkey Course, reserved for hotel guests and club members. The layouts offer a limestone quarry setting (Green Monkey), a modern style with lakes (Country Club), and traditional small greens and narrow fairways (Old Nine). Golfers can use the driving range for free. The Country Club Restaurant and Bar, overlooking the 18th hole, is open to the public. Caddies, trolleys, clubs, and shoes are available for rent, as are GPS-equipped carts, which alert you to upcoming hazards, give tips on how to play holes, and let you order refreshments! Sandy Lane, Hwy. 1, Sunset Crest, St. James, BB24024. 246/444–2500. www.sandylane.com/golf. $220 for 18 holes ($185 hotel guests); $145 for 9 holes ($125 guests); 7-day pass $1250 ($1150 guests). Green Monkey: 18 holes, 7343 yards, par 72; Country Club: 18 holes, 7060 yards, par 72; Old Nine: 9 holes, 3345 yards, par 36.

Royal Westmoreland Golf Club. This well-regarded Robert Trent Jones Jr.–designed, 18-hole championship course meanders through 500 acres. Highlights include challenging greens, a great set of par threes, and ocean views from every hole. The course is primarily for members and villa renters, with 10 to 11 am tee times for visitors subject to availability (no Saturdays). Greens fees include an electric cart (required); club and shoe rentals are available. Royal Westmoreland Resort, Westmoreland, St. James. 246/419–7244. www.royal-westmoreland.com. $215 for 18 holes, $108 for 9 holes for villa renters or hotel guests with club privileges; $250 visitors. 18 holes, 7045 yards, par 72.

Guided Tours

Taxi drivers give personalized tours for about $35 to $40 per hour for up to three people. Or you can choose an overland mountain-bike journey, a 4x4 safari expedition, or a full-day bus excursion. Prices vary by mode of travel and attractions included. Ask guest services at your hotel to help you make arrangements.

Highland Adventure Centre. Mountain-bike tours, for $60 per person including transportation, guides, and refreshments, are an exhilarating 7½-mile (12-km) ride (15% uphill) through the heart of northern Barbados, ending up at Barclays Park, on the east coast. Canefield, St. Joseph. 246/438–8069.

Island Safari. This outfit takes you to all the popular spots via a 4x4 Land Rover—including some gullies, forests, and remote areas that are inaccessible by conventional cars and buses. The cost for half-day or full-day tours ranges from $50 to $92.50 per person, including snacks or lunch. CWTS Complex, Salters Rd., Lower Estate, St. George. 246/429–5337. www.islandsafari.bb.

Hiking

Hilly but not mountainous, the northern interior and the east coast are ideal for hiking.

Arbib Heritage and Nature Trail. Maintained by the Barbados National Trust, this is actually two trails. The Whim Adventure trail offers a rigorous hike (3½ hours) through gullies and plantations to old ruins and remote north-country areas; the shorter, easier Round-de-Town Stroll (2 hours) goes through Speightstown's side streets and past an ancient church and chattel houses. Guided hikes run from 9 am to 2 pm on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays for $25 per person (mininum four people); group rates are available. Book ahead, preferably four days in advance. Not recommended for children under five. Speightstown, St. Peter. 246/234–9010 or 246/426–2421. www.barbadosnationaltrust.org.

Hike Barbados. Free walks sponsored by the Barbados National Trust are led year-round on Sundays from 6 to 9 am and from 3:30 to 6 pm; once a month, a moonlight hike at 5:30 substitutes for the afternoon hike (bring a flashlight). Experienced guides group you with others of similar ability on Stop and Stare, 5 to 6 miles (8 to 10 km); Here and There, 8 to 10 miles (13 to 16 km); or Grin and Bear, 12 to 14 miles (19 to 23 km). Wear loose clothes, sensible shoes, sunscreen, and a hat, and bring a camera and water. Routes and locations change, but each hike is a loop, finishing where it began. Check newspapers, call the Trust, or check online for schedules and meeting places. Wildey House, Wildey, St. Michael. 246/436–9033 or 246/426–2421. www.barbadosnationaltrust.org.

Horse Racing

Barbados Turf Club. Horse racing is administered by the Barbados Turf Club. Races take place on alternate Saturdays throughout the year at the Garrison Savannah, a 6-furlong grass oval in Christ Church, about 3 miles (5 km) south of Bridgetown. The important races are the Sandy Lane Barbados Gold Cup, held in late February or early March, and the United Insurance Barbados Derby Day, in August. Post time is 1:30 pm. General admission is $5; $10 for grandstand seats and $50 for the clubhouse. (Prices are higher on Gold Cup day.) Garrison, St. Michael. 246/426–3980. www.barbadosturfclub.org.

Sea Excursions

Mini-submarine voyages are enormously popular with families and those who enjoy watching fish but don't wish to get wet. Party boats depart from Bridgetown's Deep Water Harbour for sightseeing and snorkeling or romantic sunset cruises. Prices are $45 to $125 per person for four- or five-hour daytime cruises and $60 to $85 for three- or four-hour sunset cruises, depending on the type of refreshments and entertainment included; transportation to and from the dock is provided. For an excursion that may be less splashy in terms of a party atmosphere—but is definitely splashier in terms of the actual experience—turtle tours allow participants to feed and swim with a resident group of hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles.

Atlantis Submarine. This 50-foot, 48-passenger submarine turns the Caribbean into a giant aquarium. The 45-minute voyage ($104 per person, including hotel transfer) takes in wrecks and reefs as deep as 150 feet. Children love the adventure, but they must be at least 3 feet tall. Shallow Draught, Bridgetown, St. Michael, BB11142. 246/436–8929. www.barbados.atlantissubmarines.com.

Black Pearl Party Cruises. The whole family will get a kick out of a "pirate" ship adventure on Jolly Roger 1. The four-hour day and sunset (Thursday only) cruises ($87.50) along the island's west coast include a barbecue lunch or dinner, free-flowing drinks, lively music, swimming with turtles, and pirate activities such as walking the plank and rope swinging. Carlisle House, the Careenage, Bridgetown, St. Michael. 246/436–2885 or 246/826–7245. www.barbadosblackpearl-jollyroger1.com.

Cool Runnings Catamaran Cruises. Owner Captain Robert Povey skippers a five-hour lunch cruise ($90) with stops to swim with the fishes, snorkel with sea turtles, and explore a shallow shipwreck. A four-hour sunset cruise ($80) includes swimming, snorkeling, and exploring underwater as the sun sinks. Delicious meals with wine, along with an open bar, are part of all cruises. Carlisle House, Carlisle Wharf, Hincks St., Bridgetown, St. Michael. 246/436–0911. www.coolrunningsbarbados.com.

Tiami Catamaran Cruises. Tiami operates five catamaran party boats for luncheon cruises to a secluded bay for swimming with turtles or for romantic sunset and moonlight cruises with catering and live music. Shallow Draught, Bridgetown, St. Michael, BB11142. 246/430–0900. www.tiamicatamarancruises.com.

Surfing

The best surfing is at the east coast's Bathsheba Soup Bowl, where the Barbados Independence Pro competition is held each November, but note that the island's windward (Atlantic) side is safe only for the most experienced surfers. Surfers also congregate at Surfer's Point, at the southern tip of Barbados near Inch Marlow, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea.

Barbados Surfing Association. The Barbados Independence Pro surfing championship (an international competition) is held at Bathsheba Soup Bowl every November—when the surf is at its peak. Contact the association for information and a schedule of other events. Olympic Centre, Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, Wildey, St. Michael, BB15094. 246/826–7661. www.barbadossurfingassociation.org.

Dread or Dead Surf Shop. This surf shop promises to get beginners from "zero to standing up and surfing" in one afternoon. The three-hour course—"or until you stand up or give up"—costs $75 per person and includes a board, wax, rash guard (if necessary), a ride to and from the surf break, and instruction; additional lessons cost $50 for 2½ hours of water time. More experienced surfers can rent boards for $25 a day. Hastings Main Rd., Hastings, Christ Church. 246/228–4785. www.dreadordead.com.

Zed's Surfing Adventures. This outfit rents surfboards, provides lessons, and offers surf tours including equipment, guide, and transportation to surf breaks appropriate for your experience. A two-hour group lesson costs $60. Surfboard rentals cost $30 for two hours, $40 per day. Surfer's Point, Inch Marlowe, Christ Church. 246/428–7873. www.zedssurftravel.com.

Windsurfing and Kiteboarding

Part of windsurfing's World Cup circuit, Barbados is a prime windsurfing spot. Winds are strongest November through April at Silver Sands–Silver Rock Beach, on the southern tip, where the Barbados Windsurfing Championships are held in mid-January. Windsurfing boards and equipment, as well as instruction, are often available at larger hotels and sometimes can be rented by nonguests. Kiteboarding is more difficult, requiring several hours of instruction to reach proficiency; Silver Sands is about the only location in Barbados with kiteboarding equipment and instruction.

deAction Surf Shop. Directly on Silver Sands–Silver Rock Beach, Brian "Irie Man" Talma's shop stocks a range of rental surfing equipment and offers beginner windsurfing, kiteboarding, surfing, and stand-up paddling lessons. Conditions are ideal, with waves off the outer reef and flat water in the inner lagoon. Kiteboarding, which isn't easy, generally involves six hours of instruction broken up into two or three sessions: from flying a small kite to getting the body dragged with a big kite to finally getting up on the board. All equipment is provided. Silver Sands–Silver Rock Beach, Silver Sands, Christ Church. 246/428–2027. www.briantalma.com.